The Chicago boys and the Chilean earthquake

Andrew Leonard in Salon:

Md_horiz The ghost of Milton Friedman, writes Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal, “was surely hovering protectively over Chile in the early morning hours of Saturday.”

Thanks largely to him, the country has endured a tragedy that elsewhere would have been an apocalypse.

Stephens' logic is simple. After the U.S.-backed coup in 1973, in which Gen. Pinochet seized power from the democratically elected president Salvador Allende, a group of Chilean economists mentored by Friedman, and known to history as “the Chicago boys,” instituted a series of radical free market reforms. Since that point, averaged over the decades, Chile has experienced the strongest sustained economic growth in South America. Rich countries, argues Stephens, are more likely to institute and enforce building codes. Q.E.D. Milton Friedman saved lives.

Some might find it intellectually provocative to cite Milton Friedman's authority in an argument that depends on the foundation of successfully enforced government-mandated building code regulations. The building inspector is not exactly a libertarian hero. Others might wonder if a more important factor in Chile's relatively tough building codes might be the devastating 9.5 earthquake the country endured in 1960.

More here.